“Boy, I was troubled.”
Back in 1982 when Princess Diana gave birth to her first child, William, postpartum depression was something that was never discussed neither publicly, nor in private with friends and family. Princess Diana was one of many women who had to keep all their worries and anxiety to themselves, having no chance to vent their negative emotions or share their suffering with anyone. She spoke about her postpartum psychological problems only a couple of times, but it wasn’t until years after it all started. She gave a candid interview to British journalist Andrew Morton for his book called Diana: Her True Story.
In this book, Diana shares how much media pressure there was around her first pregnancy, and how things just got worse after the baby arrived. “Came home and then postpartum depression hit me hard and it wasn’t so much the baby that had produced it, it was the baby that triggered everything else that was going on in my mind,” she said. “Boy, I was troubled.”
That was the time she felt the burden of being a wife, a mother, and the people’s princess all at once. Diana confessed that she felt desperate and was worrying about everything, but kept struggling in silence. “If he (Prince Charles) didn’t come home when he said he was coming home, I thought something dreadful had happened to him. Tears, panic, all the rest of it. He didn’t see the panic because I would sit there quietly,” said the Princess.
“When no one listens to you, or you feel like no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen.”
Another big interview where Diana opened up about having severe postpartum depression was in an interview for the BBC that she gave to Martin Bashir in 1995. The Princess confessed that she felt so relieved when she learned she was expecting a boy, since the pressure she experienced then was so enormous and it followed her during and after the childbirth. “I felt that the whole country was in labor with me,” said Diana.
She added that the pregnancy was a difficult one, she didn’t feel well throughout it, and things just got worse when she faced the psychological issues after giving birth: “Then I was unwell with postpartum depression, which no one ever discusses, postpartum depression, you have to read about it afterward, and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time. You’d wake up in the morning feeling like you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself. […] I never had had depression in my life. But then, when I analyzed it, I could see that the changes I’d made in the last year had all caught up with me, and my body had said: ’We want a rest.’”
Even though Diana received treatment, she said she lacked personal time, space, and support from her family, which she didn’t feel she got enough of. What’s more, her depression hit hard for not only her physical and psychological health, but for her marriage as well. “It gave everybody a wonderful new label — Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years,” she said.
When the things got worse and the pressure got stronger, Diana even tried to injure herself. “When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time that you’ve got ’enough attention.’
But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales. So yes, I did inflict pain upon myself. I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures. […] I just hurt my arms and my legs, and I work in environments now where I see women doing similar things and I’m able to understand completely where they’re coming from.”
“People were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: they decided that was the problem — Diana was unstable.”
Despite all her pain and suffering, Diana went on performing the role of Princess of Wales, and as a loving wife and mother. “I was compelled to go out and do my engagements and not let people down and support them and love them. And in a way, by being out in public, they supported me, although they weren’t aware just how much healing they were giving me, and it carried me through,” she told BBC.
The depression was resolved, but Diana suffered from bulimia for several years afterward. That was also her “secret disease” she couldn’t open up about to anybody, but people soon knew what was going on. “You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable. You fill your stomach up 4 or 5 times a day — some do it more — and it gives you a feeling of comfort. It’s like having a pair of arms around you, but it’s temporarily, temporary. Then you’re disgusted at the bloatedness of your stomach, and then you bring it all up again. And it’s a repetitive pattern which is very destructive to yourself.
If I’d been on what I call an awayday, or I’d been up in part of the country all day, I’d come home feeling pretty empty, because my engagements at that time would have something to do with people dying, people who were very sick, people’s marriage problems, and I’d come home and it would be very difficult to know how to comfort myself after having been comforting lots of other people, so it would be a regular pattern to jump into the fridge. It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: they decided that was the problem — Diana was unstable,” said the Princess.
Diana’s bulimia stayed with her for several years, and even though she was surrounded by people who loved her, this didn’t lessen the pressure. She confessed that she didn’t get the help she badly needed and she didn’t actually ask for it, because she was ashamed of her feelings and behaviors. She couldn’t even share that burden with her husband, since she was always the one who got all of the media attention. “It was difficult to share that load, because I was the one who was always pitched out front, whether it was my clothes, what I said, what my hair was doing, everything — which was a pretty dull subject, actually, and it’s been exhausted over the years — when actually what we wanted to be, what we wanted supported was our work, and us as a team.”
Why it’s important to avoid suffering alone and seek help if you have postpartum depression
The story of Princess Diana shows how important it is to talk your problems over and seek help. Postpartum depression is a complicated disorder that is caused by a variety of physical and psychological factors. The hormonal balance in a woman’s body changes after childbirth, causing chemical changes in the brain, and leading to mood swings. In addition, many new moms just don’t get enough of the sleep, rest, and support from their families that they so badly need while taking care of a newborn child.
If postpartum depression is left untreated, it can last for months or even years, seriously affecting a woman’s physical and mental health, making it difficult to take care of her child or even herself. The professional treatment for this disorder includes counseling, talk therapy, and medication, if needed. Family and friends are first ones who notice the signs of postpartum depression in a new mom, so if you notice that someone you love needs support, give it to her, and encourage her to visit a doctor. If you are the one who is suffering from postpartum depression, don’t be ashamed to talk about the problem with your family, your friends, or your doctor in order to get the help you need.